“Taking pictures had always been a part of my life, but it was music that drew it into focus,” says photographer Ben Bentley. Dialling in from California at a local time of 6am, somehow Ben is still as chirpy as ever.
From an early age Ben had always wanted to be involved in music. But it was the splitting of his teenage band that lead him to pick up his camera. “I kind of tripped and fell into shooting some live shows and I had this absolute lightbulb moment of this was what I’d been looking for,” he says. For Ben, this realisation enabled him to participate in a world that had always meant so much to him. At the time his technical ability was lacking, but in the end, it was his enthusiastic passion for music photography that shone through.
Since then, Ben has become a professional photographer now based in California. Having spent the last decade as a contributing photographer for publications, like the NME, his professional work also extends to various commercial and editorial clients.
“My obsession with California was born pretty early,” says Ben, gushing about his new home. “It was one of those weird things where your perception of somewhere beforehand, the expectation actually lived up to the reality and I was fortunate enough that I made some really good friends here.” With California a shadow looming over his life in the UK, the progression to move across the pond felt natural. Especially after meeting his now wife, who is coincidently from California.
“I’m not somebody who believes in fate or the universe or whatever, but it definitely felt fortuitous if nothing else.”
Having picked up work in California before, the move had little effect on his career as a photographer, “the kinds of clients were the same, so it would either be magazines, some of them were British magazines that I was already and still am doing shoot work for. It was also more entertainment industry focused.”
The road to professionalism in any creative industry is a challenge, “at this stage because the market is so crowded you have to be completely clear in yourself that this is what you want because otherwise it simply isn’t worth investing the time, energy, money and all the leg work,” Ben says, “now more than ever its vital that you are confident that in this moment this what you want.”
He continues, “to get into any creative industry at this point, you do have to have that drive for it because otherwise somebody else is going to have that, you can’t be 75/80% in any of this. There’s always going to be someone else out there that’s 100%. The work ethic, if it’s there and you’re persistent, there’s a version of that that you can have.”
“That hunger is vital!”
“The most valuable thing you can spend your time doing as a photographer or as a creative is figuring out who you actually are in your work. What is your work saying?”
Continuing, “you have to figure out why somebody is going to hire you and not somebody else, and that’s not because you can do the very basic technical part of it, it’s what you’re doing on top of that. You have to learn how to do all this stuff. Then you have to learn how do something interesting and that’s the difficult bit.”